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asaṃskṛta (P. asaṅkhata; T. 'dus ma byas འདུས་མ་བྱས་; C. wuwei 無爲) is translated as "unconditioned," "uncompounded," etc. It refers to phenomena (dharmas) that are not conditioned (saṃskṛta); they are not created through causes and conditions, and hence are not subject to arising, dwelling and ceasing.

The Khenjuk states:

Unconditioned refers to any phenomenon not produced from causes and devoid of arising and ceasing.[1]

Science and Philosophy in the Indian Buddhist Classics (Vol 1) states:

Unconditioned phenomena are defined as: “That which is devoid of the three characteristics of arising, ceasing, and enduring.” Unconditioned phenomena and permanent phenomena are equivalent.[2]

The Library of Wisdom and Compassion (Vol 2) states:

Permanent phenomena are not produced by causes and conditions and are not products. They neither produce an effect nor change in the next moment. The number of permanent phenomena is limitless; some examples are unconditioned space – the absence of obstruction – and the emptiness of inherent existence.[3]

Types of unconditioned things

Different Abhidharma schools identified a variety of types of unconditioned dharmas.

One type

The abhidharma of the Pali tradition recognizes one unconditioned factor within the traditional list of eighty-two dharmas:[4]

Three types

Three types of unconditioned things are identified in the Abhidharma-kosha:[5][6]

Four types

The Pañcaskandhaprakaraṇa, the Madhyantavibhaga and the Khenjuk identify four types of unnconditioned things:[5][7]

Six types

The Lucid Introduction to the One Hundred Dharmas (Mahāyāna śatadharmā-prakāśamukha śāstra), by Vasubandhu, identifies six types of unnconditioned things:[8]

Eight types

The Abhidharma-samuccaya indentifies eight types of unnconditioned things:[5][9]

  1. suchness of auspicious things
  2. suchness of inauspicious things
  3. suchness of neutral things
  4. space
  5. analytical cessation
  6. nonanalytical cessation
  7. the immovable
  8. cessation of discernment and feeling

Conditioned and unconditioned

In the Sanskrit tradition, all knowable things can be categorized as "the conditioned and unconditioned" (saṃskṛta-asaṃskṛta).

Alternative translations

  • uncompounded
  • uncreated
  • unformed
  • substanceless
  • non-composite


  1. Mipham Rinpoche 2002, s.v. Chapter 22.
  2. Thupten Jinpa 2017, s.v. Chapter 12.
  3. Dalai Lama & Thubten Chodron 2018, s.v. p. 52.
  4. Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. asaṃskṛta.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Thupten Jinpa 2017, s.v. Chapter 12: Unconditioned Phenomena.
  6. Rangjung a-circle30px.jpg 'dus_ma_byas_gsum, Rangjung Yeshe Wiki
  7. Khenjuk, "Conditioned and Unconditioned"
  8. Lusthaus, Dan, The One Hundred Dharmas
  9. Khenjuk, "Chapter 2: The Elements"


Further reading

  • Madhyantavibhaga
  • S. Goodman, "The Conditioned and Unconditioned" Chapter of Mi-pham rgya mtsho's mkhas-pa'i tshul-la 'jug-pa'i sgo, M.A Thesis, University of Saskatchewan, 1979

External links